Do I need to clean my phone?
I don’t know about you, but my phone isn’t just a phone. It’s a camera, sat nav, mini-computer, iPod, Kindle, notepad and more. Considering everything we use them for, it’s not surprising that a phone can start to feel slow or run out of storage space. We’ve got a simple guide below to clean out your phone – or your tablet – all the tips apply to tablets as well, but I’ll refer to phones for the sake of simplicity. Where instructions differ for Android and iPhone users, I’ll make it clear. So get your mobile (or tablet) charged up, and you’re ready to start! We found so much to say about this, we’ve split it into two parts to make it easier.
Before you start
Please back up! In case you accidentally delete the last picture of your dog, or that video of your baby’s first steps, making a backup will allow you to get everything back. You can find instructions for Android here and for an iPhone/iPad here. Done that? Let’s begin.
What’s taking up all that space?
You can see what’s taking up your storage in Settings:
For Android users, this is under Settings > Storage & Memory (or just Storage depending on model). You can click on each item to see how much space is being used by individual apps, for example, arranged with the largest first. For iPhone users, go to – you’ll see a list with the largest items at the top.
From there you can decide what you want to clean out and skip to the relevant section below.
Android users – for a quick and easy clean, hit the button that says Free Up Space. You will be shown a list of suggested things to delete, including downloaded files and infrequently used apps. Just tick the boxes and you’ll instantly free up space.
I downloaded three fun camera apps on Christmas Day to play with – but haven’t used any of them since. It’s so easy to download an app, which can end up just sitting there unused, or in a “may come in handy one day” folder, but some of them take up huge amounts of space. You can safely remove even purchased apps – if you do need one in the future you can download it again from the App/Play store. App purchases are tracked with your account, so even if you switch phones, you won’t have to pay for it twice.
Android users – open your app menu, and long press on an app icon until you see a bin icon with the word Uninstall. This may appear at the top of the screen, or on newer versions of Android, it may be a little menu next to the app icon. Either drag the app icon up to the bin and let go or tap the uninstall icon next to the app.
If you have an iPhone, just long press the app icon until it starts to shake, and then tap the X that appears in the corner of the icon to delete the app.
On both iPhones and Android, some apps come pre-installed – some of these can be removed or hidden, some cannot – these won’t have an X or an Uninstall icon when you long press them.
If you’ve got a few apps that do similar things, consider whether you really need them all. I don’t use the built-in Gmail app, so have hidden that and deleted all data relating to it to save space.
By now you’ve only got your essential and favourite apps left – but these still create a cache file that can build up in size. Cache files are created as you use apps, with data that will make the app run quicker if it’s stored locally on the phone. They can all be safely deleted – but you may need to log in again if your app requires a login, and progress on some games may be lost if they don’t sync to the cloud.
On a newer Android (version 7 onwards), you can open Settings then go to Storage & Memory, and scroll down to Cached Data. If you tap this, it will delete the cached data for all your apps at once. If you’ve got a slightly older Android, then go to Settings>Storage & Memory>Other apps – you will see a list of your apps sorted by size. You can tap the ones that are using the most storage and then press Clear Cache. This will free up storage but may also improve the phone’s performance.
You can also clear all data used by the app if one app is taking up a lot of storage – for example, the Facebook app on my phone is 214MB, but it’s currently using an additional 410MB for data. If you clear all app data, you will definitely need to log in again, and progress on games will be lost.
For iPhone users, the process is slightly different – you will need to go to Settings>General>iPhone (or iPad) Storage. You will see a list of your apps sorted by size and can tap on each one and clear the cache/browsing data where available. Some apps will not let you do this – if they’re taking up a lot of space then it is worth deleting the app, and then downloading it from the App Store again, as this will be a clean install without the cached data. The same warning about logins and games applies – any apps that don’t sync to the cloud may need to be logged into, and progress on games may be lost.
If there is no option to clear the cached data, then go to the Settings of the app itself, and see if you are able to clear the cache – see the Spotify screenshot at the bottom of this post.
Delete offline maps
The offline mode in Google Maps is fantastic for being able to navigate while not eating up your data allowance – but the saved maps can take up a lot of space.
If you’re an Android user, open Google Maps and tap the top-left menu button, then Offline Maps to see any offline maps that you have saved. Press the three dots to the right of a map to delete it.
If you’re an iPhone user, open up the menu and then Settings, then press Clear Application Data.
Delete other offline content
Lots of apps now have the ability to download content to use offline, which is great for those times you won’t have internet access and are stuck on a plane for example! This offline content can take up a lot of space however so it’s a great idea to clean it out once in a while. Places that offline content could be lurking include:
- Files in Dropbox, Google Drive or other cloud storage apps
- Films and episodes in video streaming apps such as Netflix
- Songs or albums in music streaming apps such as Spotify or Apple Music
- Google Maps
Go into each of these apps in turn and look for offline content in the menu – in Netflix for example, this can be found either under Downloads, or in the Netflix app settings, there is the option to delete all downloads at once.